Emily played with her fish, and stared across the small round table at her date. A vase with a red rose, and a flickering votive sat on the red table cloth. The small candle was practically the only light in the restaurant. It was meant to be romantic and hip, but it was more annoying than anything else. Or was that the company?
She was never a fan of Valentine's Day, never saw the point. If you love someone, you should cherish that everyday, not just one pre-selected day of year. Still, he wanted to celebrate in the traditional way, so Emily had nodded, reluctantly. She put on a tiny black dress, three inch heels, sexy panties, matching bra, and paid extra attention to her make-up. She even wore her expensive perfume, though she applied it only above her shoulders.
Different circumstances....well, different guy, and she would have spritzed where good girls don't spritz.
Josh, her date, whom she'd been seeing for a few weeks, was talking a mile a minute, completely oblivious that she wasn't listening. She hadn't heard a word of the last ten minutes, and while she was facing him, she was looking right through him, not at him. It wasn't that he was boring or dull, he was just...eh.
Hearing her name brought Emily back to the conversation. So, maybe he had noticed then. She smiled in response.
"One of the guys at work today asked about my date tonight. I told him that I'm dating a beautiful FBI agent that runs around shooting the crazies and saving lives." He smiled, like it was the funniest thing in the world.
"Generally, we like to avoid the shooting part," she commented dryly. How did he expect her to respond to that?
"Oh, I'm just teasing, I know how you feel about that."
She didn't respond, just looked at him blankly.
"I'm teasing, don't be upset." He put a hand on the side of her face, and offered an exaggerated sad puppy face. It was the fifth time tonight.
Emily looked down at the fish and vegetables she'd barely touched, and the half-empty wine glass the waiter had refilled at least twice. That was not a good sign. With all the wine she was comfortable enough to do what she knew she needed to do, and not feel guilty about it.
She rested her hand ontop of his. "Josh, I'm sorry to do this tonight, but I'd really rather we just be friends."
While he was still in silent shock, she pulled a few bills out of her wallet, and tossed them on the table. It would cover her meal and drinks, and part of his, that was generous enough. She pulled the cloth napkin off her lap, and got up from her seat as his mouth was begining to move silently. She walked out of the restaurant without waiting to see what he'd say, she didn't care to hear it.
Emily walked down the sidewalk, enjoying the cool, but not cold night. She had a thick wrap to keep her shoulders warm, as even LA was a little chilly in February. It was comfortable though, as LA tended to be during most seasons. Whether it was the wine or the weather, she didn't know, but Emily's mind began to drift to last Valentine's Day. She'd actually wanted to celebrate last year, and so had he.
Mexico was still in the recent past, and while they weren't to the 'I love you' stage yet, they both knew they had something special. They went to see a movie, and then got Chinese and went back to his place. She remembered laughing so hard, she nearly chocked on the dumpling Matt had smoothly tried to feed her. They were not quite coordinated enough to pull that off, that's what had gotten her giggling. They'd cuddled on the couch through a bad TV movie, allowing their bodies to digest, before retreating to the bedroom and making love for half the night. If she closed her eyes, she could still feel his arms around her.
A horn and yelling brought her reluctantly back to the present. A cab had gotten too close to a blue sedan, and now both drivers were out of their vehicles, holding up traffic, yelling and cursing each other.
Emily walked into an overpriced parking garage, and headed toward her SUV while digging through her purse. Where the hell were her keys? She was seconds away from dumping the bag out onto the hood when she nearly impaled her hand on her apartment key. Nice.
She pulled them out, and realized for the first time that she'd left the silver hearts key chain attached. The dangling conjoined hearts made her stop and stare. It had been a gift from Matt, after she'd spent ten minutes digging through her bag for her keys for the fifth time. He figured the key chain would make them easier to find, and he'd been right. She only spent five minutes digging through her bag now.
Emily sighed, and traced the hearts with her fingers. Three months ago, they'd had a horrible fight, and broken up. No time-out, no breather, no short break, but a real, horribly painful break-up. It had been her fault.
She had thought she might be pregnant for a month, and spent the entire month freaking out, but only inside her head. Finally, she'd grabbed a double pack of pregnancy tests from a drug store, and dragged Lia home with her. Emily used both tests, and they ate ice cream while they waited, planning for the worst. Both tests were negative, and Emily actually cried with relief, much to Lia's surprise.
She didn't tell Matt.
He found out almost month later, when he discovered the little folded instruction sheet that came with the tests behind the toilet. At first he was angry that she'd kept it to herself, then he was hurt that she still wouldn't let him in, let him be there for her. Emily had insisted that she did let him in, because at the time, she thought she had, certainly she had let Matt in more than any man in her life. There ensued the most heart-breaking fight she'd ever participated in.
Emily could still hear their angry voices shouting back and forth in her head.
Once again, Emily was jolted out of memory lane by honking horns and yelling, but this time it was directed at her. She was still stopped at a light that had turned green, though when she wasn't sure. She barely remembered getting in the car and driving out of the lot. This became even more obvious when she realized where she'd driven to.
Matt's building was two blocks up and one block over.
Emily made a split second decision, and kept going straight. For two blocks she ignored the smarter voice in her head, demanding to know just what in the hell she though she was doing. Then she turned, and the voice became full blown squawking. By the time she guided the SUV into the parking lot, ignoring the voice had made her concentrated and determined.
She was going to go into that apartment building. She was going to knock on his door. She was going to...going to...alright, so she hadn't thought it out. Obviously. She'd figure that part out when he opened the door.
Easier said than done. Emily raised her hand to the door, and rapped three times. She was okay until she heard him clicking of the locks on the door. Then suddenly a hot wave washed over her body, and her stomach churned violently.
"Em?" Matt's face was screwed up in confusion.
"Hey, I uh, I just wanted to stop by and--" Emily froze mid thought as she caught sight of a dark haired woman craning her neck to see the door from the couch. Emily was instantly humiliated.
It was Valentine's Day, of course, he would have his girlfriend here. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
"Sorry, you have company, I've got to run anyway, uh have a good night." Emily swung around, and hurried down the hallway, eyes burning with tears she wouldn't allow to fall.
"Em, wait!" Matt jogged down the hallway after her and caught her arm.
Emily's heart was pounding in her throat as she stared into his eyes for the first time in three months. It still made her knees a little weak.
"She's my sister, Suzie." Matt's grip loosened on her arm.
"Yeah, she's on vacation, staying with me for a couple of days."
Emily shook her head miserably, what the hell had she been thinking coming here tonight?
"What's going on?" Matt finally let go of her, apparently convinced that she wouldn't run.
"You haven't been to my apartment building in three months, I assume you had some reason for coming tonight?"
Emily froze for a minute, thinking up a convincing lie. Then she chuckled. "Yeah, too much wine with dinner."
Matt's eyebrows rose, and he looked around the hallway. "What happened to your date?"
"I broke up with him, and left him at the restaurant."
Emily shrugged. "I better get going."
She turned and took a step away when Matt's voice stopped her.
She turned back to face him, her chest felt heavy and tight, so she didn't answer him.
"Why did you come tonight?"
She took a deep breath, and the air trembled down her windpipe. Eyes on the ground, she picked her head up to look at him, and whispered the only truth she knew. "I miss you."
He sighed heavily, and the cracks in her heart began to deepen into cavernous chasms.
"I'll go now." Once again, Emily stepped away, ready to run out of there for the very last time. A hand caught her arm, and dragged her back.
"No, you're won't."
Emily just stared back, trying not to wince at his tight grip, and now angry eyes. Her heart was pumping so fast, it might pound itself right out of her chest.
Matt must have realized he was holding her a little too tightly, because he let go quickly, and sighed, running a hand tiredly through his hair. He suddenly focused back on her.
"You can't just show up here, say...that, and then take off. That's not fair. You started this ball rolling again, you have to stay until it stops." He brows were still knit in anger, and his fidgeting was a sure sign that he really wanted to pace.
Emily just nodded, not sure what to do, not sure what she started. She tensed when he suddenly began to speak again.
"Don't run from me. Don't pretend nothing is going on inside your head, I know you well enough to know that's not true. And, for god's sake, when I ask you what's going on, don't lie to me and say nothing. I want to know when you're upset, scared and stressed out, just like I know when you're happy. I want you to trust me enough to tell me all of that stuff."
There was silence, as the two former lovers regarded each other. It wasn't an unfamiliar arguement, but his honest, passionate, but not angry delivery, that was not familiar to her. When they had argued this before, there was little doubt his neighbors heard. Emily swallowed, hoping to lubricate her dry mouth, before finally getting the courage to speak.
"The night we broke up, I ate an entire container of chocolate ice cream, and after I finished it, I spent the rest of the night throwing it up, which was fine because I couldn't have slept anyway...I haven't looked at the Marriot across from work in three months because every time I do, I get this horrible knot in my stomach that doesn't go away without a whole lot of wine. Lia told to me move on after a month and a half, so I did, or at least, I thought I did. I didn't realize until about ten minutes ago that dating someone else isn't moving on, it's only dating someone else. And, I know it's cruel to break up with a guy on Valentine's Day, but I couldn't stand the thought of spending one more minute with him..." she finally slowed down, but only for a minute, to take a shaky breath.
"I didn't tell you that I thought I might be pregnant, because I was scared to death, and I don't know how to share that kind of fear. I know when I've just had a gun pressed to my head that crawling into your arms will make my heart stop pounding and head stop spinning. But with what it was, nothing except a negative test would stop the pounding and the spinning, and it could have been positive."
She stopped again, and Matt went to speak, but she put her fingers gently against his lips. When she spoke again, her voice was think with the first hints of tears.
"Just one more thing. I need you to know that I came here tonight because I miss you, and I don't want to miss you anymore."
The anger had dissolved from Matt's face, leaving him looking almost passive. Emily felt her palms go slick with sweat as she waited on him to tell her to stay or leave. She knew what she wanted him to say, but she hadn't realized it until she knocked on his door twenty minutes ago.
He reached up, and ran his hand along her curls, brushing them behind her ear and cupping her face. He could tell her he'd handled the break-up similarly poorly. He could tell her a thousand things about forgiveness, working it out, and learning to trust. Instead, he whispered just found words.
"I miss you too."
Then she was in his arms, holding him, and breathing in the ocean-musky smell of his cologne. She took a deep shuddering breath, and finally released some of the tears buring in her eyes. Her heart had finally slowed to a normal rythm when Matt pulled away. She saw tears shimmering in his eyes too, she wasn't the only one feeling a little emotionally overwrought. Then he kissed her, and set her heart pumping erratically again.
That was good though. His kisses, his touch, Matt was his very own brand of cardio workout.
They held each other, in the middle of his hallway for several more minutes, and Emily basked in a warmth she hadn't felt in months. Yes, she could easily screw it up again, but she wouldn't do that this time. It would be hard, but she let him in even further, she'd let him all the way in.
"Oh god, I forgot about Suzie." Matt suddenly pulled away, shaking his head in amusement.
"Sorry, I distracted you," Emily said. Matt laughed. They had a habit of doing that to each other.
"Come in, I'll introduce you." Matt took her hand, and started leading her toward the door, ignoring her wide eyes.
Emily squeezed his hand and forced her eyes back in her head. They had never made it to the meet the family step, this was something big.
"Suzie?" Emily was still gripping his hand, as Matt walked into his apartment, frowning and looking for his sister.
The young woman from the couch suddenly appeared from the kitchen, a can of coffee in one hand, and a scoop in the other. "I was making coffee."
"Yeah, the coffee can sort of gave that away." She rolled her eyes, but came when Matt waved her over. "Em, this is my baby sister Suzie, Suz--Emily."
As they shook hands, Emily noted the young woman had her brother's expressive brown eyes, and her almost black hair fell onto her back. From conversations, Emily knew she was twenty-nine, a club promoter in Baltimore, and still close to both of her brothers.
Suzie nodded slowly, "Emily, nice to meet you, I've heard a lot about you...though, I hadn't expected to meet you after you know..."
"Yeah, of course...I uh, hadn't realized Matt had company tonight." Emily was more nervous now than she had been. It was clear Suzie Flannery was sizing her up, wondering what had gone on outside her brother's apartment.
Matt seemed to sense the tense vibes. "Suzie, let me help you with the coffee--Em, we'll be right back."
Suzie didn't argue, and Emily watched them walk to the kitchen, feeling more awkward than she ever had in Matt's apartment. Even their first night together in his apartment hadn't been awkward, it didn't have time to be. As soon as they were in the door, they were pulling off clothing. Rather than stew in her discomfort, Emily sat on the couch and stared blankly toward the window.
She'd gotten up, and was standing in front of the window when Matt came back into the room. He didn't say anything, but walked up behind her, and wrapped his arms around her waist, holding her close to his body. She turned in his arms, running a hand over one side of his face.
"So...we're trying this again?" Her question came out emotionless, but her mouth had gone dry again, and her throat was tight.
Matt frowned. "Isn't that what you want?"
"Yes, I just wanted to be clear." She leaned her head against his chest. "I love you."
Matt stared at the top of her head, a little smile curving his mouth. Emily saw it as she looked up at him.
"What?" She asked.
"I'm not used to you being first with those sorts of things," he said.
Emily knew he meant saying those little words first. She had explained to him once that that wasn't because she didn't feel that way, but the exact opposite. It was because she did love him, and admitting that aloud scared the hell out of her. She pressed her lips delicately to his, barely more than brushing them, then offered a muted smile.
"You wanted to know what was going on inside my head."
He kissed her, pressing his lips more firmly than she had, and then pulled her back, tight against his body. Emily leaned into him heavily, three months with the weight of depression finally breaking. Everything about being that close to him was unbelievably comfortable, felt undeniably right. The feel of his delicately muscled chest and arms, the smell of him--fabric softener, sweat, cologne, deodorant--the little mole on the right side of his neck, and of course, the warmth of his body molded around hers.
She felt him sigh, a contented sigh. With his lips so close, his breath tickled her ear, he whispered, "I love you too."
Happy Valentines Day! Thanks for reading, and please review!